Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: WHO'S WHO Volume 1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

WRITERS: Len Wein, Marv Wolfman
PENCILS: Joe Orlando, Craig Hamilton, Carmine Infantino, Don Heck, Alex Saviuk, Scott Shaw!, Jerry Ordway, Marshall Rogers, Mike Zeck, Keith Giffen, Ernie Colón, Gil Kane, José Delbo, Howie Post, Greg Theakston, George Pérez, Chuck Patton, Steve Bissette, Jan Duursema, Eduardo Barreto, Rick Hoberg, Murphy Anderson, Curt Swan, Tod Smith
INKERS: Joe Orlando, Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin, Murphy Anderson, Don Heck, Scott Shaw!, Jerry Ordway, Marshall Rogers, John Beatty, Bob Oksner,  Ernie Colón, Gil Kane, Romeo Tanghal, Howie Post, Greg Theakston,  George Pérez, John Totleben, Jan Duursema, Eduardo Barreto, Rick Magyar
COLORS: Helen Visik, Shelly Eiber, Tatjana Wood, Joe Orlando, Greg Theakston
LETTERS: Todd Klein (production)
EDITORIAL: Len Wein with Marv Wolfman and Robert Greenberger
COVER: George Perez
32pp, Color, $1.00 U.S., $1.35 CAN, 45p U.K. (March 1985)

Who's Who: The Definitive Guide to the DC Universe was an encyclopedia of the characters, places, and things of the DC Universe, but it was published in a comic book format.  Created by Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and Robert Greenberger, Who's Who began publication in 1984 one month before the release of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the 12-issue comic book series that changed the DC Universe of characters.  Who's Who ran for 26 issues, but there were updates (in 1987 and 1988) and spinoffs (including one for DC Comic's 1980s “Star Trek” comic book series).

In Who's Who, each of the characters, places, and things (for the most part) has its own page and is depicted in an illustration, pin-up, or technical drawing created by a comic book artist or a penciller/inker team.  Some of the artists are legendary comic book creators or are famous or are at least known for their association with DC Comics.  Others are comic book artists who were active working professionals in American comic books, including in independent and alternative comics, at the time of the publication of the original Who's Who.

At the recent Louisiana Comic Con (October 17 and 18th, 2015 in Lafayette, LA), I found a copy of Who's Who: The Definitive Guide to the DC Universe #1.  I once had several issues of this series, but I don't know what happened to them.  Although I actually once read some of the text, I really bought Who's Who for the illustrations.

First of all, I love the wraparound cover art by George Perez, especially the detail with “Arak: Son of Thunder” sitting on a rock outcropping.  Inside, there is also a lot to like.  I think that it is just great that the first illustration of this first issue is by the late, great Joe Orlando, a depiction of House of Secrets star/victim, “Abel.”  Seeing classic Flash artist, Carmine Infantino, draw “Abra Kadabra,” a character in Flash's “rogue gallery” is a treat.  Fans of Jerry Ordway's 1980s work for DC Comics will be happy to see his double-page spread of the cast of All-Star Squadron.

I can never say no to “Ambush Bug” drawn by Keith Giffen.  I can never say “No” to anything by legend Gil Kane, who offers a drawing of pre-Grant Morrison, “Animal-Man” and a drawing of his version of “Atom.”  I like Ernie Colón, so I was happy to see a few drawings from him, including one of “Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld.”  “Arcane” by the classic Swamp Thing art team of Steve Bissette and John Totleben is a highlight.  Classic Golden and Silver Age DC Comics artist, Murphy Anderson, offers a drawing of one of his signature characters, “Atomic Knight.”  Anderson also inked “The Atomic Skull” drawing by one of my all-time favorite artists, Curt Swan.

Greg Theakston did a good job with an “Apokolips” drawing, but I would have preferred that “Fourth World” creator, Jack Kirby, draw Apokolips for this series.  Eduardo Barreto is a fine comic book artist, but I wish that Jose Luis Garcia Lopez had drawn the Atari Force double-spread.

In the nearly three decades since Who's Who: The Definitive Guide to the DC Universe was originally published, much of its text is no longer relevant.  That is the result of DC Comics' numerous reboots and relaunches and “new directions.”  Still, this series can be of use as a reference source for writers, comics historians, and archivists, and especially for fans of DC Comics' bygone days.  Fans of classic and veteran comic book artists, of course, will want this series.  I plan on hunting down more issues.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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